Mick O’Driscoll knows his chances of making the Ireland Rugby World Cup squad are not exactly helped by the current competitiveness of the lock and back row positions, but the Munster man is facing the challenge as he always does – with a steely determination.
The 11-times capped lock, who played twice during the recent summer tour to Argentina, has the added versatility of being able to play in the back row, having done so previously for his province.
The intense competition for places in the second row and back row, which will only increase as the countdown continues to Sunday’s RWC squad announcement, is something O’Driscoll is well used to.
“It’s just the way things have been in Ireland for a while. It’s same for the guys in the back three – there’s competition for those guys as well. There’s competition everywhere, but at the minute there are a lot of back rows and second rows,” said the Corkman.
“There are six back rows and eight back rows here (in camp) so there are going to be some guys very disappointed and some guys who possibly would’ve thought they were going to make it, that are going to be disappointed. Unfortunately that’s the way it is.”
So how has the big lock coped with the pressure of trying to impress the coaches last week in Limerick and this week in camp in Dublin?
“Every player here expects that they’re going to go to the World Cup. That’s the way you have to be because if you’re not like that, you’re only wasting your time being here.
“I suppose it does make things more intense particularly this week because the 30-man squad is being announced on Sunday. It’s the last opportunity for guys to show up for a World Cup spot. That’s the reality of it.”
O’Driscoll was quick to praise the Irish coaching staff for the constant support and guidance they offer the players, particularly when reviewing training sessions and assessing their form.
“We’ve got all the coaches there for that (discussing our performances) like Steady (Graham Steadman) and Brian (McLaughlin). We can sit with them in the evening times after training. Training is always recorded so we can go in and talk through things with them and see how things went and see if you can improve on a daily basis if needs be. That’s a great help,” he added.
“But I don’t think players really speak to each other about how they’re doing. Some days you might, some days you mightn’t. You try and work with the coaches – they’re the guys who can help you more I suppose than your own guys. But if there’s something that you think you can learn off one of your team-mates, then you’ll certainly ask.”
O’Driscoll, who has captained Ireland previously at ‘A’ level, has no qualms about helping a team-mate, even if he is one of his main rivals for a seat on the plane to the World Cup. Very much a ‘team’ player, the 28-year-old is hopeful that everyone of the 37 players present in Dublin this week gets “a fair chance” at making the squad.
“Whatever team you’re put with in training, you have to work with that team and with that group of lads. Whether you’re with the guys from your own province or guys from another province, it doesn’t matter – you just work for that group of individuals who you’re with at the time. You have to do that.
“Sometimes you have to selfish about it at this level and hope for the best on a personal level but then also, after that, on a team level. And for all the guys in the squad, you just hope that everyone gets a fair chance.”